Louisville Magazine

MAR 2017

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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58 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.17 of better type than those surrounding." Surveyors touted its proximity to schools and churches. (e strip was demolished in the early '60s.) Poe uses 2010 census data (the latest available at the time of his research) to show how redlined neighborhoods stack up now. Russell, Portland and Smoketown all have poverty rates above 40 percent. (Areas around Shawnee and Chickasaw Park that were graded better have lower rates of poverty.) Vacant and abandoned homes plague the redlined areas in greater numbers. Poe also looked at mortgage denials between 2011 and 2013 and found that 41 to 75 percent of mortgage applications were denied in certain areas of Russell and Portland. Smoketown and Shelby Park had a mortgage denial rate of 21 to 31 percent. Out east — Indian Hills, the Highlands, St. Matthews — the rate was 10 to 20 percent. None of this shocked Poe. But it did unsettle him. "ere was a systemic effort to abandon (certain) neighborhoods," he says. "Redlining became systematic in real-estate market analysis. We don't call it that. But when we do real-estate market analysis, there's a demographic study within that." He uses an example of a grocery store. If a grocery doesn't like the demographic study of a neighborhood it's scouting? "It doesn't build a store there," he says. A half-dozen west Louisville baby boomers reunite over strong coffee and homemade ginger cookies. A few min- utes in, it's a loose thread of happy mem- ories — We lived in that pink little house after you! I used to sit in my tree house and watch the horse races! ere were so many of- ficers on my street we called it the 41st Street precinct! You remember when Southwestern Parkway was called Black Hollywood? Everyone grew up in or near the Westo- ver subdivision, now Chickasaw, a part of west Louisville that sat near a horse track, the old fairgrounds and a Ford plant. e group, which includes Metro Council- woman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, has assembled at Leborah Goodwin's house on Plato Terrace to talk with me about the effects of redlining on African-Americans. I was expecting sour tales of their parents struggling to purchase a home. I was wrong. Lynn McCrary, a tall, outgoing woman with gray hair that sits like a crown, pulls the original deed to her parents' home out of a tote bag — a tote, I might add, that's included predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Banks channeled mortgag- es away from these zones, making home- ownership difficult. Private and public credit institutions, including the Federal Housing Administration, used HOLC's discriminatory system. Without access to FHA-insured mortgages, black families sometimes relied on predatory lenders. One afternoon, I interview Gerald Neal, a Democratic state senator who was born in the Beecher Terrace housing project and still lives in west Louisville. When I ask him about redlining, he leans back in his chair. "When you talk about redlin- ing, you got to go way back from the fact that it tended to preserve that which had already existed historically," Neal says. He's talking about racism. He's thinking back to slavery. With that as a foundation, it's hard to get too upset about redlining. It just maintained racist practices already embedded into the American fabric. (Poe, in his report, points out that for many African-Americans, their first "residence" in Louisville were slave pens at Second and Main streets.) "It's distressing, because if you raise the issue of race now, and I'm generalizing, but I'd say a majority of soci- ety would say, 'ere you go — crybaby,'" Neal says. "But there are consequences. It's right there in front of us." Look at Louisville's redlining map that dates to 1937. e chunks of red, yellow, blue and green are randomly configured and don't follow neighborhood boundaries or census tracts. But green and blue, or "A" and "B," neighborhoods cluster in the east in St. Matthews, Indian Hills and portions of the Highlands. ese areas were deemed "hot spots," full of good housing stock, free of black or Jewish pop- ulations ("homogenous") and not likely to be infiltrated by such populations. Poe points out that in HOLC's doc- uments, a neighborhood's "restrictions" were considered quite valuable. at refers to deed restrictions prohibiting the sales of property to blacks. "ese restrictions were mentioned in the assessments more than physical (characteristics) such as the topography or quality of structures," Poe explains in his report. "For instance, the Indian Hills and Mockingbird Valley neighborhoods were described as the best areas of the city in large part because they were also 'one of the highest restricted areas.'" (Poe also writes that race seemed to outrank the potential for flooding as a determinant for property values, this at a time when Louisville had just experienced the Great Flood of 1937.) Top-ranked neighborhoods aren't exclu- sively out east. A swath of blue sits next to Shawnee Park, but that area was exclu- sively white at the time. Stare at the map long enough, a pattern emerges — yellow neighborhoods, or "C"-ranked areas, act as cushions between the areas shaded red and those labeled blue or green. In yellow-shaded Clifton, there's a con- cern of "infiltration . . . of a lower-income group gradually moving in." Surveyors grew anxious when one class or race mixed with another. Unless they were domestic workers. at was kosher. For instance, in the area of the Highlands near Harvard Drive and Dundee Road, the surveyors wrote that there are "ten negro families, all closely groups and no probability of any further increase in negro infiltration." Red clusters include Smoketown, Shel- by Park, Russell and Portland (the latter two in the West End). ese D-graded areas are summarized like this: "ey are characterized as detrimental influences in a pronounced degree, undesirable population or an infiltration of it. Low percentage of home ownership, very poor maintenance . . . unstable incomes of the people . . . areas are broader than the so-called slum districts." Nails on a chalkboard for mortgage lenders. A sliver of yellow exists in red Russell. It's right along Chestnut Street, where a black middle class thrived. It's the only predom- inantly black area that received anything but a D-grade. "e area is . . . occupied by negroes and consisting of improvements The redlining system ranked and color-coded neighborhoods on a four-tier scale — "A" through "D." The lowest-quality areas were shaded in a pinkish-red — the color of flushed cheeks — and almost always included predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

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